Game Reviews

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Helen’s Mysterious Castle is a charming 2D role playing game with a similar graphic style to classic PlayStation One role playing games such as Final Fantasy Origins and Tales of Destiny. The game was created using RPG Maker but is far from the usual half done RPG Maker games we see often on Steam. Helen’s Mysterious Castle was developed by a Satsu who is a small indie developer.  The game was published to Steam in late March 2016 by AGM PLAYISM who has published dozen of indie games on Steam. The original release of Helen’s Mysterious Castle was available only from PLAYISM’s website without use of DRM.

The game begins with its young heroine who knows nothing about her own past or the place she currently resides. The young heroine Helen decides to journey into the mysterious maze-like castle to find any hints of who she is and where she is. Helen must be cautious and brave during her travels since many dangers lurk within the castle. Helen travels alone without the company of any other characters and manages to continue on due to her curiosity. Along the way she will travel through other towns that exist within the structure of the gigantic castle. Though the young heroine travels alone there are characters in the towns who help her along the way and guide her with small hints and tips. As with most role playing games there are weapon shops and inns though ironically your character has no use for them. Helen gets everything she needs during her travels through the different levels of the castle.

The game mechanics are very unique in every way although it appears like a normal role playing game from the outside. The most intriguing game mechanics are within the game’s battle system and the leveling system. Helen does not actually level up herself but the player can level up her weapons and shields. Rather than equipping weapons and shields in battle you simply select them for an action much like you would with basic items such as potions in most role playing games. Battles are always one on one but require a bit of timing and tactics to survive each battle. Each battle gives you a set amount of experience to use for leveling up your weapons, shields, and magic spells. The battle system is difficult to grasp at first but once you figure it out it is quite enjoyable.  All of your items are found throughout each level of the castle and the more you explore the more likely you are to get powerful weapons and spells. Nothing in the game is quite as it seems at first especially when it comes to the intriguing and unique game mechanics.

Another unique aspect of the game involves ways to increase the heroines health points as well as how she heals her health. Whenever Helen dies in a level of the castle she is returned to a resting spot in town. Upon waking up Helen is presented with food but it is up to the player whether she accepts or not. If you choose to go to the food and have Helen eat it her health points will increase by 1 point each time. This is fortunately not the only way to increase her health points. Throughout towns and dungeons the character can smash pots and open treasure chests. Some of these pots and treasure chests contain items which increase Helen’s heath points by a few points each. If Helen is attacked by enemies you can use the pools of water found on each level to restore her health back to full. Due to this there is actually no need to heal by visiting an inn which you cannot do in this game anyways. 

The art is basic and similar to many of the popular 8 bit titles we used to know and love from the early days of the PlayStation One System. The character avatars are of course unique to the game but the art itself for the characters does not stand out in any way. There was of course a lot of effort put into the overall look of the game regardless of the fact that it was made using RPG Maker. Each of the dungeons are well designed and thought out and the towns are styled in a simple and nostalgic way. While the game appeared simple and generic from its art it is later made evident after playing it that it both nostalgic and unique. The art of the game is not one of its strengths but it is also not a weakness due to the game’s retro influences.

Helen’s Mysterious castle is a must own for fans of high quality 8 bit games in search of a game that takes something familiar and turns it into something new. The game has a familiar look but the game mechanics are anything but typical of a retro style role playing game.  The battle and leveling systems are fun and challenging but easy to learn. The art and animation in the game is not particularly amazing but it does give a feeling of nostalgia to retro gamers. The game might be a bit too difficult for those who are new to retro style RPGs due to the game’s minimal instruction. Helen’s Mysterious Castle is one of the best 8 bit indie RPGs ever published to Steam.

Pros: Unique Gameplay Mechanics, Retro Styling, Simple Art

Cons: Windowed Screen

SCORE – 8.5/10

This review is based on a purchased digital copy of Helen’s Mysterious Castle on Steam.

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